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Energising Agriculture in the Hindu Kush Himalaya 

A tiny fraction of Nepal’s energy is used in agriculture. Harnessing renewables could be a game-changer for millions of farmers, writes Jan-Erik Studsrød, Counsellor for Energy and Climate at the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Kathmandu.
Published: 30 Apr, 2024
⏲ 3 minutes Read

Ground realities 

The agriculture sector in the Hindu Kush Himalaya is currently deprived of one main vehicle for growth: energy. 

To take Nepal as an example: the use of energy in Nepali farming is just 1-2% of the national total. In stark contrast, in Norway and other developed countries, the use of energy penetrates the entire agriculture and food security value chain. 

While much of Norway’s energy for agriculture currently comes from fossil-fuel sources, a major shift is underway, with more and more farmers embracing renewables.  

Upping Nepal’s use of energy in farming has the potential to be a game-changer. 

Excitingly, the country has an opportunity to do this without resorting to fossil fuels.  

Renewables: a Vital Solution  

While 90% of current energy in agriculture in Nepal is sourced from diesel, the rapid increase in the production of renewable energy from primarily hydroelectric production means it’s completely possible for fossil fuel sources to take up an ever lessening proportion of the agriculture energy mix.  

This work is urgent. In many hills and mountain districts, villages are emptying as inhabitants leave due to lack of water. Young men in particular are migrating, leaving the burden of agricultural production to women and the elderly.  

While deploying renewables in agriculture will lighten farmers' loads both today and in the long-run, use of fossil fuels in farming will only exacerbate the temperature rise that is already making water sources and their livelihoods less secure.  

The laws of gravity 

Communities in the mountains have traditionally tended to live higher up – a rational choice when rainfall and snowmelt were plentiful and predictable.  

But with rain and snow more erratic, community water sources are disappearing fast.  

These communities living in places higher up where they can grow food need access to water from the bottom of valleys – and fast.   

Well-planned renewable-powered water lifting systems can and must bridge this gap. 

Nepal and Norway: 60 years of Collaboration Continues 

Supported by the Norwegian Embassy, UNDP, World Food Programme and ICIMOD, last year launched a new initiative called “Energy for Food”.  

This project, which focuses on the hill and mountain districts in the provinces of Karnali and Sudurpaschim in Nepal, enables communities to take advantage of local energy sources to lift water for irrigation and other vital uses. 

This exemplary project is a beacon for the meaningful use of renewable energy for agriculture - with a huge opportunity to be scaled out across the Hindu Kush Himalaya. 

Find out more about ICIMOD and partners’ work across the region: 

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